Monday, November 20, 2017
News Roundup

Why not turn downtown Clearwater into a pedestrian mall?

RECOMMENDED READING


CLEARWATER — Here's another idea that's being kicked around for moribund downtown Clearwater: Why not turn the center of it into a pedestrian mall?

Downtown leaders have been debating the possibility of blocking off part of Cleveland Street to vehicular traffic. City staffers have been asked to weigh the potential pros and cons of a pedestrian zone. But officials are pouring cold water on the idea, despite the enthusiasm some have for it.

"Our downtown hasn't worked for 20 years. Let's try something crazy," joked Tony Starova, owner of Tony's Pizzeria & Ristorante and the adjacent Capitol Beer House on the 400 block of Cleveland. "Every study we've done is telling us that we have to change something."

Starova is a member of the city's Downtown Development Board, where a potential pedestrian mall has been a hot topic for months. Board members have repeatedly discussed blocking off three or four blocks of Cleveland Street between Osceola Avenue and perhaps Myrtle Avenue.

However, they would start small, with just the 400 block. That's the block between Osceola and Fort Harrison avenues. It's by far the liveliest stretch of Cleveland Street in Clearwater's downtown core, containing a Starbucks and the Capitol Theatre as well as more active businesses than the neighboring blocks.

As envisioned, this pedestrian mall would feature movable tables and chairs, and would host small events and activities. Although the street is sometimes closed for temporary events now, the theory is that a permanent pedestrian mall might entice more Clearwater Beach tourists to check out downtown.

Cleveland Street used to be a lot busier when it was the route to Clearwater Beach. When beach-bound traffic got switched to Court Street with the opening of the new Memorial Causeway Bridge in 2005, vehicular traffic plummeted on Cleveland Street.

Former City Council member John Doran recently pitched the pedestrian mall idea to the Downtown Development Board, pointing to the successful examples of the Church Street Marketplace in Burlington, Vt., and the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder, Colo.

"There is no guarantee that this will be a success," Doran cautioned the board. "Approximately 200 cities have tried it over the last 30-40 years. The success rate is about 11 percent."

If it doesn't work out, he suggested, just open the street to cars again.

However, Clearwater officials are shooting down the idea.

Paul Bertels, the city's traffic operations manager, said downtown already has problems with traffic circulation because of the way it was built a century ago.

Michael Delk, Clearwater's planning director, said most pedestrian malls don't survive, and the ones that survive typically have plenty of pedestrian traffic because they're often located near clusters of apartment buildings or college campuses. "In short, they are areas characterized by large numbers of people," Delk said.

Finally, City Manager Bill Horne recommended that the city not do it.

"We really looked at it," said City Council member Jay Polglaze. "The biggest glaring point was the merchants — Starbucks and a list of other folks — were not ready for this and did not want it," Polglaze said.

Starbucks was concerned that the loss of metered parking spots in front of its location would hurt its business.

On the other hand, some business owners like Starova still think that a pedestrian mall would be a way to set downtown Clearwater apart and make it a unique place in Pinellas County.

But at this point, the Downtown Development Board isn't pursuing this plan.

Contact Mike Brassfield at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151. Follow @MikeBrassfield.

Comments
Buccaneers-Dolphins Turning Point, Week 11: Cool, calm Fitzmagic

Buccaneers-Dolphins Turning Point, Week 11: Cool, calm Fitzmagic

On Sunday, the Buccaneers and Dolphins played one of those football games that gets only an obligatory mention at the end of highlight shows. In that spirit, this week’s Turning Point will focus mostly on the final three minutes of Tampa Bay’s 30-20 ...
Updated: 16 minutes ago
‘He’s going to come back and finish me off,’ Adam Matos victim told her boss

‘He’s going to come back and finish me off,’ Adam Matos victim told her boss

NEW PORT RICHEY — At a hearing to decide whether he should live or die, Adam Matos smiled at family members Monday.He saw them sitting in a Pasco County courtroom as his sentencing for four murders began. A bit later, a witness reminded jurors of the...
Updated: 18 minutes ago

Deputies: Port Richey woman arrested for hitting boy, 4, with hanger

PORT RICHEY — A Port Richey woman was arrested on a charge of felony child abuse after a 4-year-old boy in her care told deputies she hit him with a clothes hanger, leaving bruises, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said.Teresa White-Fry, 38, was arr...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Largo police active shooter training ‘a sign of the times’ for participants

Largo police active shooter training ‘a sign of the times’ for participants

LARGO — The classroom was full, but the chatter was quiet as the students picked at doughnuts and sipped coffee from paper cups.Many were strangers to each other, but the reason they showed up at the Largo Police Department on a sunny Saturday mornin...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Top 5 at noon: Adam Matos sentencing begins; Seminole Heights thanks first responders; and more

Top 5 at noon: Adam Matos sentencing begins; Seminole Heights thanks first responders; and more

Here are the latest headlines and updates on tampabay.com:SENTENCING PHASE CONTINUES IN TRIAL OF ADAM MATOS, FOUND GUILTY IN MURDER OF FOURThe sentencing phase begins Monday in the trial of Adam Matos, convicted Friday of first degree murder in the ...
Updated: 1 hour ago

St. Petersburg pedestrian fatally struck in Osceola County

A pedestrian from St. Petersburg was killed Sunday night when he was struck by an SUV in Osceola County.According to the Florida Highway Patrol, 24-year-old Matthew Mitchell was struck along on U.S. 192 at Pine Grove Road in St. Cloud around 7 p.m.Tr...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Vermont man, 51, struck and killed walking across SR 54 in New Port Richey

Times Staff WriterA 51-year-old Vermont man died Sunday night after he was struck by a car on State Road 54 east of Pecan Drive in New Port Richey, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.Howard Leach Jr., of Enosburg Falls, was trying to cross all s...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Tampa Electric, contractor fined $43,000 in gas leak

Tampa Electric, contractor fined $43,000 in gas leak

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Tampa Electric $18,108 and gave the company two "serious" citations for its response to a gas leak at the Big Bend Power Station in May, the agency announced late Friday.The May 23 incident invo...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Most air travelers say taking off your shoes is okay. An etiquette expert disagrees

Most air travelers say taking off your shoes is okay. An etiquette expert disagrees

Unless you are ensconced in first class, sleeping on a plane is as intimate as dozing off in a waiting room on jury duty — everyone on the aircraft knows the decibel level of your snoring and the sad state of your socks.To gauge how passengers percei...
Updated: 1 hour ago

FHP seeks New Port Richey hit-and-run driver who left man severely injured

NEW PORT RICHEY — Police are searching for the driver of a vehicle that left a New Port Richey man seriously injured after a hit and run Sunday evening, according to Florida Highway Patrol.Randy Pearson, 58, tried to walk across State Road 54, west o...
Updated: 1 hour ago